Interoperability of platforms that promote data sharing and collaboration across stakeholders will be critical to improved agency services and better the passenger experience.
Recently, the consolidation of transit agencies for holistic mobility management has been trending both overseas and in the U.S. In early February, California state Sen. Josh Becker introduced Senate Bill 917, which calls for the implementation of the Seamless Transit Transformation Act.
SB 917 would charge San Francisco’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission with forming a more comprehensive, cohesive transportation system from the more than two dozen Bay Area transit agencies. Most notably, the bill would require MTC to adopt a Connected Network Plan with an integrated transit fare structure, comprehensive transit mapping, a funding plan and open data standards.
At this moment, there are 27 independent transit agencies operating in the Bay Area’s nine counties. Each agency uses different fare structures, discounts, loyalty programs, wayfinding apps, mapping and branding systems. A lack of schedule coordination and real-time transit data across agencies can make transferring confusing and unreliable, leading to an unpleasant experience for Bay Area riders. Despite several investments in transportation infrastructure, Bay Area transit ridership remains low.
There is a growing need to manage transport, social equity and environmental policy across all modes within a city or region. Interoperability of platforms that promote data sharing and collaboration across stakeholders will be critical to improved agency services and better the passenger experience.
Equity and accessibility
A study conducted by TransitCenter found that Black, Asian and Latinx transit riders in the Bay Area have significantly less access to jobs than the average white resident. With California being one of the most expensive states to live in, it is no surprise that transit fares can be costly too. In fact, due to the large number of transit agencies in the region, riders pay a financial penalty when they must use more than one transit agency.
By eliminating this financial penalty, SB 917 will make transit payments less expensive and make public transportation more accessible to lower income communities. The bill also proposes a common fare structure for long-distance journeys and a multiagency transit pass for one set price. Uniting all 27 independent transit agencies will allow Bay Area’s transit system to be easier to use, less expensive and, therefore, more accessible.
Successfully managing a city’s mobility network requires flexibility in approaches, technologies and platforms that allow local agencies to integrate legacy systems with new technologies as well as data generated by smart devices and third-party providers. The Fare Integration Business Case found that SB 917’s changes could increase transit ridership by tens of thousands while reducing congestion and emissions from cars on the road.
Despite such positive predictions, implementing these policies depends on the approval of each of the 27 transit agencies in the Bay Area. However, with SB 917, these policies would become mandatory requirements for receiving state transit funds. The bill will also require agencies to develop a Connected Network Plan for the region by the end of 2023. The Connected Network Plan would be an integrated service for the region, identifying areas for rapid transit, desired service levels and frequencies and target travel times. It will also eventually support the creation of a unified regional bus rapid transit system.
Consolidated mobility managers at the city and regional level need scalable and interoperable digital mobility tools that help them manage the entire mobility network across stakeholders and modes. As passengers increasingly tie together multiple modes in their travel, it makes sense to manage the network as passengers experience it -- not as a series of independent modes but as a cohesive journey from where they are to where they need to go. In the end, public transit will be a convenient, affordable and environmentally friendly option for all Bay Area residents.
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